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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in organic (4)


Wednesday Night at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market

Kohlrabi, a member of the cabbage family in the likeness of something, perhaps in a Harry Potter movie (when not cleaned up).

Open on Wednesday Evenings

The Fulton Street Farmer's Market has new evening hours on Wednesday night, which I love.  I visited the market on their opening Wednesday evening last week.  I was pleased with the variety of vendors who showed up.  It was also much less crowded, somewhat empty, in fact.  Here's a little pictorial preview of what I found. 

Raw Honey, and a sweet vendor who doesn't say too much.

Organically grown (but not certified) herbs from PawPrint Farms

Organically Grown But Not Certified

I'm fascinated by farmers who are taking steps to grow organically, even though they do not opt for certification, and I love to chat with them about their practices.  Organic Certification is a very important standard for our food for many reasons - including the testing for and elimination of GMOs.  But this does not mean that we can't find fantastic, responsibily grown,  non-certified products from our local farmers that follow the same (or similar) standards. It's tough to receive organic certification and it's very expensive.  I often find the farmers who grow organically to be just as knowledgeable as those who are able to reach for that coveted seal.  Farmers who grow organically, certified or not, have to work with their neighboring farms to keep their neighbors' pesticides from wafting onto their crops.  That waft of chemicals can be significant and so can the waft of GMOs from farm to farm.   Corn farmers, for instance, need their neighbors who also grow corn to plant non-GMO seeds.  Otherwise their crops can cross polinate with the non-GMO crops that farmers have fought so hard to plant.  Get the picture? 

A little flower power


According to the USDA Economic Research Service, 90% of soy crops produced in the United States, 86% of corn and 93% of cotton are genetically modified.  About 80% of our processed foods contain GMOs (think soy lecithin, sugar from GM sugar beets, and high fructose corn syrup).  Much of this is due to cross-pollination.

It's more important than ever to support our local farmers, especially those who are working toward becoming organically grown.



Paw Print Farms grow some lovely herbs.  Picked up this one that is new to me.  It is supposed to taste like cucumber.  Do you know what it is?

Picked up this herb from PawPrint Farms. It's supposed to taste like cucumber.

 I found some great kale and greens from Sole Powered Farms.  The freshest kale I think I've ever tasted.


A new organically grown farm at the market. Sole Powered Farms.Dognip. Natural treats for your pet. Wish I had a dog to buy them for!

I love the grass fed ground lamb from Crane Dance Farms.   They also have lamb chops.  Try this recipe for lamb chops with rosemary.   Grass fed lamb has 50% of the Omega 3's as salmon (that's alot) and is higher (than grain fed lamb) in Vitamins B12 and B3, tryptophan, and thyroid and immune system-loving selenium.  According to our participating docs, grass fed meat also digests more easily.

I also picked up some terrific eggs.  Beautiful and tasty.



These cloth hats and bowls are fun.


So will I see you at the Market on Wednesday nights?  Stop me if you see me, would love to chat.


More Posts from Elisabeth


Make Me Over Gluten-Free (Review: Mineral Fusion Make Up)

Interview with Alessio Fasano, M.D. (Part I):  Should Anyone Eat Gluten?

10 Steps to Living Allergen-Free and Doing It Well

The Gifts of "No"

My Chat with Crave & The First Gluten-Free Winner of Cupcake Wars!


About Elisabeth

Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at


Organic? All Natural? GMO’s? What’s Happening to Our Food?


As seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine's April 2012 EditionRead the Full Magazine.


Photo Courtesy of Women's Lifestyle Magazine


It's Not Just About Food Allergens Anymore

When you become a Tender Foodie, you start to read labels.  As entertaining as this sounds, it is a necessary and regular exercise that helps keep people with food allergies safe.  Labeling gives us important information, and it helps build trust with manufacturers.  But as you apply this label-reading practice to your daily life, you begin to see how essential each ingredient is to your overall health.  It is as important to read what’s ON the label as it is to understand what is NOT on the label.  ‬

‪In this article, I’ll help decipher some of the labels you see every day, and then outline important events that are happening off- label, so you can better understand your choices.  It isn’t just about food allergens anymore. ‬


Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

‪~USDA National Organic Program‬

The label “Organic” is important for the many reasons stated in the above quote.  One of the most important issues of our time, however, is that it’s one of the only ways to know that your products do not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  You could also get to know your farmers and vineyard owners, learn about their practices, and trust them.  It’s not scientific, but there are responsible farmers out there who grow organically, even bio-dynamically (above and beyond organic), but who do not use the USDA certification process.  We’ll get into GMOs in the next section.  ‬

‪First, let’s roll up our sleeves, get out our magic decoder rings, and review organic labeling.  ‬

‪“100% Organic” / USDA Certified Organic Seal‬

‪Only manufacturers who have met the USDA requirements and who have been certified by a licensed agent may use this claim and use the USDA Certified Organic Seal.  All agricultural aids and processing agents must be 100% organic, must not be irradiated, and may not contain GMOs, or anything (including chemicals) from the National List of Prohibited Substances.  ‬

‪“Organic” / USDA Certified Organic Seal‬

‪At least 95% of the product must be composed of certified organic agricultural products.  The remaining 5% must consist of organically produced agricultural products if commercially available. If not, the product may consist of certain non-organic agricultural ingredients or non-agricultural or synthetic ingredients listed in the regulation.  No genetically modified organisms (GMO), sewage sludge or irradiation are allowed in the remaining 5%.  ‬

‪Food producers can use the above terms (“Organic” & “100% Organic”) anywhere on the package, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other legal labeling requirements.‬

‪“Made with Organic Ingredients”‬

‪Up to 3 organic ingredients can be highlighted anywhere on the package.  This practice is often used as a marketing tool to underscore that the product contains organic ingredients.  An unlimited number of organic ingredients can be marked as such in the ingredient list.  For a food producer to use the “Made with Organic Ingredients” label, however, at least 70% of the ingredients must be certified organic.  The remaining 30% may be substances from any non-organic product produced without GMO, sewage sludge, or irradiation.  ‬

‪What Happens When a Product is Less Than 70% Organic?‬

‪If a product is made with less then 70% organic ingredients, the manufacturer is not permitted to use the term “organic” anywhere on the label, EXCEPT in the ingredient list itself (such as “organic carrots, peas, organic tomatoes”, etc.)  The USDA Certified Organic Seal may not be used.  The label must, however, identify the certifying agent, identify which ingredients are organic, and may include a statement or organic percentage in the ingredient information panel.‬


‪. . . Ah, the wild west of food marketing.  I hear people say, “But the label says that it’s All Natural?  How could that be bad?”  ‬

‪Steve Kluting, an attorney with Varnum, who focuses his practice on food industry issues, including product labeling, explains:  ‬

‪While the use of "organic" and its related terms is strictly regulated, the use of "natural" and "all natural" on food labeling is much more loosely dictated under the law.  To label a product as "natural", a food business does not have clear and straight-forward rules to comply with so, as a result, the grocery aisle is filled with "natural" products that a consumer might purchase despite that consumer having a definition of "natural" that's vastly different from the FDA, the USDA, or the food processor that labeled it.

‪In short, the FDA does not consistently define this claim, nor regulate it.  It’s policy (not law) is that natural foods contain no added color, synthetic substances or flavors, and that nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in, or added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in food.  But what is considered “synthetic”?  High fructose corn syrup is one example of an inconsistency and is under scrutiny by a number of courts.  GMO products are also allowed with this label.‬


‪According to the USDA Economic Research Service, 90% of soy crops produced in the United States, 86% of corn and 93% of cotton are genetically modified.  About 80% of our processed foods contain GMOs (think soy lecithin, sugar from GM sugar beets, and high fructose corn syrup).   At least 30 countries (including Japan and the entire European Union) have either banned, demanded labeling, or have greatly restricted GMOs.  According to Reuters in February 2012, China, the 2nd largest corn consumer in the world, is considering approval for GMO corn for 2013.  ‬

‪The U.S. has been using GMO crops since around 1996 without any labeling.  There is also no standard definition of “Non-GMO” labeling.‬

Photo Courtesy of Women's Lifestyle Magazine
‪Petitions created by consumer and farmer groups raise important questions about the wisdom and safety of GMO crops.  In March 2012, 45 Congressmen and women and 10 Senators have recognized that GMOs are a critical issue and have prompted the FDA to look at GMOs much more closely.  ‬

‪In January of 2000, a group of 828 concerned scientists from 84 different countries have issued an open letter to all governments, urging them to immediately suspend all release of GMO crops:‬

‪We urge the US Congress to reject GM crops as both hazardous and contrary to the interest of family farmers; and to support research and development of sustainable agricultural methods that can truly benefit family farmers all over the world. ‬

‪We, the undersigned scientists, call for the immediate suspension of all environmental releases of GM crops and products, both commercially and in open field trials, for at least 5 years; … and for a comprehensive public enquiry into the future of agriculture and food security for all.

‪  ~ From an open letter to all governments Signed by 828 scientists from 84 different countries, including Majory U.S. Universities.‬

‪What is a GMO?‬

‪A GMO food contains genes replicated in a lab from other plants, animals, bacteria or even viruses that give these foods different characteristics – such as a resistance to insects, increased yield, or drought resistance.  This is not crossbreeding.  GMO crops are specifically engineered to withstand the direct application of herbicide, and /or to produce insecticide.‬
‪ ‬

‪What’s Wrong with GMOs?‬

‪Some of these new characteristics sound noble and helpful.  GMO manufacturers have made claims that genetic engineering will “feed the world”.  However, they have released new genes into our food supply without knowing how these genetic alterations would affect human, animal or farming health.  ‬

Independent, long- term studies have exposed serious health and farming concerns.  The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving non-GMO foods, has compiled an impressive, but frightening list of scientific research using large and small animals.  According to these studies, GMOs have caused problems with immune, reproductive, and gastrointestinal systems; and have also caused organ damage and accelerated aging in these animals.  ‬

‪In one of only a handful of human studies performed at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital in Quebec, Canada, 93% of pregnant women had traces of insecticide present in their blood, namely, the bacterial toxin, “bacillus thuringiensis”, or Bt, found in GMO Corn.   The health effects were beyond the scope of this study, but significant, none-the-less.  ‬

‪GMOs are an experiment, plain and simple.  It is not the consumer’s responsibility to prove that GMOs are safe or to put their health on the line in the name of science.  GMOs must be removed from the market and then be properly and independently tested.  Until then, we have the power to act.  We can demand labeling of GMO foods.  The FDA has until mid-April to respond to the petition to label GMO’s.   Go to to learn more.‬

‪7 Simple Actions You Can Do Now‬

‪1.    Read every label – every time‬
‪2.    Know your brands‬
‪3.    Stay away from the top GMO 8:  corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, yellow squash and zucchini (buy these organic, but be aware that cross-breeding between GMO & Organic can easily occur for certain crops, like corn)‬
‪4.    Go Organic whenever possible‬
‪5.    Look for the “Non-GMO Project” Seal‬
‪6.    Shop using the “Non-GMO Shopping Guide”‬
‪7.    Ask the FDA for Labeling.  Nearly one million people have sent their comments to the FDA through the “Just Label It!” campaign at  The FDA has until mid-April to respond to the petition to label GMOs.  ‬


‪The Institute for Responsible Technology (‬

‪Just Label It!  (‬
‪ ‬
‪The Non-GMO Shopping Guide  (‬)


About Elisabeth

Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at



Garden Organic: The Battle of the Blight

In the Beginning

It started last year with little black spots on my oregano.  I was surprised.  Maybe this plant (whose oils are usually powerful enough to resist anything) wasn’t getting enough sun.  But I was quite sure that Adam and Eve had never seen little black spots in their garden.  Then the spots spread to my precious mint and tarragon.   I did what the Internet told me to do and cleared out all of the infected leaves, bagged them and trashed them.  I started spraying every leaf with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water every single evening.  It seemed to work.  But after a week of heavy rain and strong wind, the blight spores waved their little victory flag and left that discriminating corner of herbs.   It attacked the zucchini (dead quickly) and then spread to my prized tomatoes.  Those flippin' spots soon felled so many leaves that the tomato plants looked like their proverbial loin clothes had been ripped off – love apples exposed.  My rosemary and cucumbers even got it (and I’m not saying anything proverbial about the cucumbers).  

The spots didn’t affect any of the vegetables directly until late in the season.  But without leaf cover, the produce throughout the summer was thin at best.  My plants were prematurely balding and not in a sexy, high-testosterone kinda way. 

And my greens.  Oh my 10 different varieties of health-giving greens that were so bountiful in the past provided no garden-to-table salad last summer.  

Lessons Learned:  Tenderly Nurture

The Fulton Street Farmers' Market in Grand Rapids, MI
In past seasons, I’ve learned that if you plant a seed, it comes up miraculously bringing joy and love to all with appetites.  I have also learned that 25 zucchini plants can fuel a small restaurant for 3 months.  

This summer, I thought my lesson was about control because infuriating stuff happens that interferes with the miracle of food and sends you to the grocery store instead of the dirt behind your house.  But my lesson is really about nurture.  A little knowledge from the experts can help keep the love coming from backyard to table.  

I found my first lead at the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids, MI.

UnPesticidal Advice:  How to Control Leaf Spot

I had contacted several experts throughout the year and no one wanted to touch this one.  I almost gave up, dumped a bunch of manure on the land and left it for a year.  Or maybe forever.  But the gardening bug bit again this spring and I was so excited to play in the dirt that I simply I had to try.  

First Expert: Trillium Haven Farms

When I went to the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market a couple of weekends ago, I hesitantly picked up heirloom tomato and pepper plants.  Then I spoke to Trillium Haven Farm owners Anja Mast and Michael Vanderbrug.  We had a very interesting conversation and were kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Rainy Day Advice From Michael VerBrug from Trillium Haven FarmsTheir Advice:  Build up the immune system of your soil.  Soil is like your own immune system and 75% of yours lies in your intestines.  Your intestines, like the soil, need a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals to absorb into your body.  Your intestines also need the right balance of friendly bacteria in order to digest those nutrients so they can be absorbed.  Maintain this delicate balance and you thrive.  

Plants need this kind of harmony in their soil’s immune system as well.  In my gardening life, I’ve learned that not all plants need the same mix of nutrients.  Some plants need more acidic soil where there is a lot of iron (like azaleas).  Some plants need more of an alkaline soil.  According to the National Gardening Association, tomatoes need a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. 

As Michael pointed out, if your plants don’t get enough of the specific nutrients they need, they simply can’t fight disease.

This is a concept that hits home for me, and for anyone whose own immune system has issues -- food allergy-related or otherwise.  Anja and I discussed plainly that we are what we eat – but not only because of the fruit or vegetables we put into our mouths.   We can truly benefit or suffer because of health of the soil from which our foodstuffs arise.  

So, good information, but how do you organically change the pH and nutritional content of your soil?

Second Expert:  Morgan Composting

Since you don’t know what you are going to get in your compost or aged manure from traditional companies, Michael recommended that I give Morgan Composting a call.  They sell completely organic, aged cow poo, worm casings… all kinds of earthy stuff for your garden.  They balance their products to enrich and maintain the health of your soil no matter what.  

I emailed Morgan’s and Alyson wrote me back.  Here is what she said:

First, our DairyDoo compost is a great start.  It will definitely get some good beneficial organisms in your soil to counteract the bad bugs...blight. I would apply it this year at a rate of 1/2 inch, over the entire garden.  This will ensure that the blight doesn't get into the walkways, and repopulate. If you did this, you will need about 2 yards (a pickup truck full).

Second, I would recommend using a summer foliar of fish Hydrosolate.  We use MultiBloom, which is real easy, and convenient to hook up to your hose. You can spray this once a week throughout the summer.   It is a fertilizer, but you would get more benefit from the essential oils, and also the minerals that fish has to offer.  It is also a systemic, and will go to work right away.  We sell those bottles for $12.95ea.

You can find these products at any of our fine local retailers, which are located on our website,

Third Expert:  Friends and Friends of Friends

I had also spoken to a coOrganic Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Plants from Trillium Havenuple of friends about their battles with blight.  Many gardeners are having this problem.  One person suggested lime (from limestone).  I asked Alysson about this at Morgan’s Composting.  She said that this might be helpful, as calcium can help in the battle of the blight, but the nutrients in the compost and oils in the fish Hydosolate will be the key.  She suggested getting a bag of high calcium (not dolomite, or high magnesium) lime.  The calcium content needs to be higher than the magnesium, because too much magnesium can cause a fruit rot in tomatoes.  So I picked up a 40 lb bag and spread half of it on the entire garden today.  If that goes well, we’ll do the other half.  It is supposed to be "non-toxic", and my dear father found me a pelleted version, so the dust was less annoying.  I didn’t wear a mask, but I would recommend doing so anyway.  Blagh.

Another friend of a friend battles blight in wet weather by dusting her tomato plants with powdered milk.  How interesting is that?  Since I have dairy allergies, I’ll stick with the lime.  This weekend, I’m hoping to start step two - building the immune system.  That is if I can get to the nearest Morgan’s retailer which will be a bit of a drive.   I bet it will be worth it.

Wish me luck!  Now go get your poo, then let me know about your gardening adventures and your battle with the blight.




Birthday BabyCakes in my Mailbox

When BabyCakes Bakery first came on the scene (or at least into my consciousness), I was about to move from my long-time home of New York City, so I didn't have the opportunity to try their phenomenal gluten-free baked goods made with organic, low glycemic and chemical-free ingredients.  But a dear friend came to visit me in Michigan 2 years ago with my then birthday wish in tow.  Gluten-free brownies from BabyCakes bakery.  We spent that May weekend in the famously historic Grand Rapids, Heritage Hill Area, then hiked the dunes at Saugatuck Dunes State Park, and then went to the Green Well Gastro Pub for a birthday dinner with friends.  For dessert, I pulled out those brownies that I saved (OK, I tried a few right away) to share as my birthday cake. The Green Well staff brought plates.  There may have been a candle.  Only one, mind you.

I was the only Tender Foodie at the table, and they were oohed and ahhed over by all.  Now, BabyCakes has three locations (New York, Los Angeles and Disneyworld) and they have two cookbooks.   Today, that same friend who brought towed my BabyCake treats onto the plane two years ago, just sent me both BabyCakes cookbooks.  I was so excited I simply had to tell you about it.

Its time to get baking.  And eating.  Birthdays aren't so bad when you get BabyCakes.